2021 was a huge success for the kayak industry. Paddlesports in general are more popular than ever, due to increased interest in the outdoors. Anyone that looked for a specific model last year was lucky to find it. At Airkayaks.com, we were no exception, with over 150 models of inflatable kayaks and stand up paddleboards in stock (normally), we got down to only 30 in stock at one point.
We shipped out over 130 tons of kayaks to our customers in the last 6 months of the year alone, and we wanted to point out the top trends of 2021 and predict the top kayaks of 2022. Airkayaks.com is a full year, multi-brand (9) inflatable kayak supplier, plus, we actually test and review all brands of inflatable kayaks and SUPs on the market on goairkayaks.com. Needless to say, we have a dataset on our hands to determine what people bought, were searching for, which kayaks held up, which had warrantee issues, and what people were the most happy with for 2021. We hope this guide is helpful in your search for a new inflatable kayak in 2022.
We’re going to highlight 2021’s top tandem inflatable kayaks, best fishing inflatable kayaks, top solo inflatable kayaks, best whitewater inflatable kayak, top packable / travel inflatables, and most searched inflatable kayaks.
Stay tuned for Airkayaks predictions on: the top inflatable kayak for 2022, new kayaks for 2022, trends in the market, and what has changed with top kayak manufacturers for 2022.
Note: This article mentions pricing which is correct as of January 11, 2022. We do our best to maintain articles, but for up to date pricing please check Airkayaks.com.
Airkayaks Top Tandem Inflatable Kayaks for 2021
1. Advanced Elements Convertible Elite – AE1007E ($1099)+ AE1007DS (Limited Edition Blue Color – $949)
By the numbers, there is no other kayak more popular than the Advanced Elements Convertible series kayaks. These kayaks are made with multiple options (seats, floor, bag, etc) and in multiple colors (Red, Green, DS Blue <<<< Airkayaks Exclusive). Combining the two models, these kayaks had about double the search volume of any other tandem, were the top selling tandem by a long shot. And they were out of stock for 7 & 9 months respectively. We expect stock to arrive more regularly for 2022, but dont sleep on this kayak if you can find one for sale.
This kayak paddles beautifully in the water, and is built to last. It sits more like a sit inside, versus a sit on top kayak, which is a common theme in the Advanced Elements line. This helps it track straight in the water, instead of zig zag like some of the other inflatables on the market. While this line has been around for a while, it is regularly updated, and we have stories from customers who have used this series of kayaks for 10 years (and they are still going).
Pro Tip: Take a look at Airkayaks Exclusive AE1007DS. Its the best value of the series.
Its the same kayak as the Convertible Elite, with a dropstitch floor, improved kayak backpack, but in a blue color, AND with an included AE pump, foot brace and inflatable lumbar seat. Its also less expensive $949, versus $1099 at time of writing, than the AE1007E. The included accessories are a $125 value, so the true value difference is $275 with the Airkayaks Limited Edition Model. These kayaks are limited edition and they will not be around for long. Buy this kayak if you want a tandem that is built to last for years, and paddles beautifully in the water.
You can also read our guide To Choosing Your Advanced Elements Convertible, Convertible DS or Convertible Elite Kayak.
New in 2020, the AirVolution is Advanced Elements series of full dropstitch kayaks. Full Dropstich means the kayak structure (not just the floor like others) is 100% dropstitch material. Due to the construction, the kayak is incredibly rigid when its inflated. You would be hard pressed to find someone who thought this kayak was inflatable. Its a unicorn out there, the only full dropstitch, 2 valve kayak around. Inventory was sporadic, and this kayak was out of stock for about 6 months of the year. By search volume, this was the number 1 tandem inflatable kayak model for 2021.
Built for day touring, the AirVolution is the kayak equivalent to a BMW M5 – built for performance, everything high end, but you’re probably not going to take it on an 8 hour road trip, or an overnight (although some people do!). AE includes a nice carrying bag with wheels and it has extra room for gear, plus a nice SUP pump. Buy this kayak if you want high tech, the best construction available, virtually zero dry time, and a performance oriented tandem kayak.
Protip: Use the Airkayaks Turbo Pump
The AirVolution is a surefire hit for a fun filled day on the water, but you may want to buy a foam pad for paddling longer than a couple hours. Airkayaks has found a few seat upgrades (in our opinion) for those looking for more comfort.
When someone asks “whats the best 2 person kayak available”, we usually respond “have you seen anything that interests you?” Sure enough, they will say the AirVolution, Convertible Elite, and / or the Aquaglide Chelan 155. New in 2021, this kayak is C.O.M.F.O.R.T.A.B.L.E. It was also INCREDIBLY LIMITED – we had a wait list of over 100 people at one point for this kayak and did not have stock publicly posted for sale until September, the end of the kayaking season for most. We expect stock to be more available this year, so we expect this kayak to be more popular for 2022.
Made from 100% PVC construction, the Chelan is lightweight for its size, and it will dry faster than the Convertible Elite. (Expect a dry-time functional test later this year). Where the AirVolution is an M5, the Chelan 155 is a Mercedes SUV. Its got loads of space for gear and people, has every bell and whistle imaginable (foot brace, inflatable seat, loads of mounting points, cupholder mount, saddle seat), is built more for creature comforts / luxury, and its fast too.
The Chelan will fit 2 adults and a kid, or 3 adults in a pinch, it inflates easily, and is all around a great inflatable kayak. Plus its got the best inflatable kayak seats of any on the market in our opinion.
Buy this kayak if you are looking for the most comfortable 2 person inflatable kayak, with room for 2+ Paddlers.
Pro Tip: Buy it with our Airkayaks E-Finity Paddle Assist Motor. (The EFIN Bundle is only $350 more than our basic bundle with 2 paddles and pump). Feel free to ask questions about it, but just buy it, you will not regret it.
Airkayaks E-Finity Paddle Assist Motor will help you paddle further, stay out longer, and put an ear to ear grin on your face. Think of an E-Bike but for your kayak. It fits the Aquaglide Chelan and Blackfoot Series right out of the box, and should work for about 4 hours on full power (lithium battery pack), speeds may vary but expect about 3-4 mph on motor power only.
Best Fishing / Most Wanted Inflatable Kayak
To call this kayak popular would be an understatement. Our wait list for this model alone was over 150 people and I am certain there are those out there that wanted one that were not able to get one. We have 5x our inbound inventory for 2022 versus 2021, and our first batch arrives late January. They are open to preorder now.
160 stands for 16 feet long so its the longest kayak we carry at Airkayaks. It will definitely benefit from the Airkayaks E-Finity Motor. Buy this kayak if you want the best inflatable kayak for fishing on the market.
Want something smaller for fishing?
For those looking for something manageable as a single but capable of a 2 person kayak, the Blackfoot 130 makes a great 1 or 2 person kayak. We’ve used on as our fishing and E-Motor test bed for the second half of the year and it is a great kayak, to keep our theme up with comparisons, the Blackfoot 130 is the Escalade, where the Blackfoot 160 is the Escalade ESV (extended version or maybe a stretch limo version).
Top Solo Inflatable Kayaks for 2021
By a landslide, the AE1017 Sport is the top selling, and top searched solo kayak of the year. These kayaks were so popular, they were only in stock for about 45 days of the year until November 2021. We would get a batch in and one week later they were gone. Our Airkayaks Limited Edition SportDS model in Blue was sold out in March. We just received our next batch and expect they will go soon.
The Sport is unique because it is the entrypoint (in our opinion) to the “next level” inflatable kayaks. It includes Advanced Elements trademark aluminum rib-frame technology in the bow and stern, which provides increased paddling performance in this sporty design. It truely provides the performance of a hardshell with the lightweight transportability of an inflatable.
To top this off, its wide cockpit opening makes it super easy to get into and out of – kind of like a hybrid sit on top / sit inside. For those looking to attach a spray skirt, look at the AE1012 or AE1044.
The standard version (orange) has had a price increase from $399 to now $499, making Airkayaks DS Limited Edition the best value at $529. The AE1017DS comes in our Airkayaks Blue Color includes a Pump, High Back Lumbar Seat, and Dropstich Floor, which improves performance. These options add up to a $288 value. Buy this kayak if you are looking for a lightweight, solo inflatable kayak with performance features.
Exclusive to Airkayaks.com, the XL & XLC take the popular AE1012 AdvancedFrame Kayak and take it up a notch. The XL / XLC are just a little bit bigger at 10’10” long versus 10’5″ long (AE1012) and 34″ wide versus 32″ wide. The extra room is great to make it easier to get in and out of, provide a little extra give at the waist and at your feet, hold just a bit more gear, plus they come with a bunch more accessories (pump, foot brace, DS floor, and high back lumbar padded seat are included – a $300 value). Price starting at $629 versus the AE1012 at $599, the AE1044 DS series is an easy pick for value, plus its an awesome kayak.
These kayaks sold out within one week during spring of 2021, and we expect our winter batch will not last much longer.
Buy this kayak if you are looking for a roomy solo inflatable kayak with performance features, comfort and at a great value.
What’s the difference between the XL & XLC? The C stands for Convertible. This model includes a zip off deck for open top kayaking.
Runner Up – Kokopelli Moki-Lite ($699)
While this kayak did not have the same sales volume as other top models – it did have huge search volume. Clearly people are interested in this model. Rightly so – because its a great kayak. It won the GearJunkie 2021 Best Inflatable Kayak Award.
Kokopelli did well with the Moki-Lite, its lightweight, built well, has a Dropstitch floor, and it paddles great.
Everything that comes with the kayak is top notch, including the Mesh River Bag, seat and high quality included pump. But the paddle at 220cm is a little short for some kayakers.
We predict big things for our twist on the Moki-Lite: Airkayaks MakoDS Lightweight Inflatable Kayak with High Pressure Floor. Airkayaks.com has teamed up with Kokopelli for a Limited Edition, in our signature Airkayaks blue colorway. How is it different from the current Moki Lite? We upgraded the valves, high pressure floor, and added a universal mount for a coffee / beverage cup or cellphone / camera holder. We have removed the paddle from the kayak box, but will be offering bundles in a standard 230cm and 240cm size. Street price expected to be at $575 without paddle and $625 with an aluminum 4 piece 230cm breakdown paddle (Airkayaks Basic Bundle).
Sign up for our notification list to get more details on the kayak. We expect to release them early March 2022.
Best Whitewater Inflatable Kayak
These kayaks were tough to come by this year. I expect them to remain tough to come by once we get to March. Price is expected to jump to $1049 and $849 (about 15-20%).
The Tomcat series is durable and purpose built for whitewater. Using vinyl bladders and a rugged 1000 Denier PVC outer shell the Tomcat Solo is affordable, yet tough.
Airkayaks stocks the Tomcat series in Green, Red and Blue.
Most Searched + Best Value Tandem
Searched more than any other kayak on Airkayaks.com, this 2 person Value / Entry level inflatable kayak was hard to beat at $399.
Along with most other kayaks, this kayak had a price increase due to inflation and is priced at $499 for 2022. We still believe in the quality and value provided by the Island Voyage but with the Tahe Beach LP2 ($619) priced in the same area, (but including a pump and 2 paddles) we will see if it holds the Best Value crown for 2022.
A word of caution on inventory levels, this kayak will not be readily available early in the season, inventory is slated to arrive in July, and it may impact your kayaking plans if you are set on the Island Voyage only.
Buy this kayak if you are looking for a great value tandem kayak. But act fast, we expect inventory to dry up quickly.
Top SUP / Kayak Combo / Hybrid
Tahe SUP YAK Combo SUP – KAYAKs came out in 2021 and they were an instant hit. Out of stock almost everywhere by mid-June, these SUPs are tons of fun when used as a kayak.
What is a SUP / Kayak Combo?
These hybrid Stand Up Paddleboards are relatively new to the market and they pack double the value into a SUP Board. They all will include a kayak seat and kayak paddle with purchase. Many will also include a foot rest to make them very capable for recreational lake and river paddling.
They are a great way to share some time on the board with a little one, or a furry friend. The Tahe 11’6 SUP-YAK Kayak/SUP Combo is suited for 2 adult paddlers.
–Fast Forward Link–
2021 Best Inflatable Kayaks List
Top Tandem Kayaks
- Advanced Elements Convertible Elite – AE1007E ($1099)+ AE1007DS (Limited Edition Blue Color – $949)
- Advanced Elements AirVolution2 ($1649)
- Honorable Mention: Aquaglide Chelan 155 Tandem Inflatable Kayak ($1299)
Best Fishing Kayak / Most Wanted
Top Solo Kayaks
- AE1017 AdvancedFrame Sport ($499) & AE1017DS SportDS ($529)
- Advanced Elements AE1044XL ($629) & AE1044XLC ($699)
- Runner Up – Kokopelli Moki-Lite ($699)
- Check out the New Airkayaks Mako Lightweight Inflatable Kayak with high Pressure Floor ($575)
Best Whitewater Kayaks
Most Searched / Best Value Tandem
Top SUP / Kayak Combo
- All available at Airkayaks.com
Best New Accessories
- Airkayaks Turbo Pump
- Airkayaks E-Finity Paddle Assist Motor
- NRS Chinook Fishing PFD
- Airkayaks Hi-Low Frame Seat
Predictions for 2022
1. More kayaks are available (yay!).
We think that if you are looking to get a specific model kayak, your chances are better this year. All manufacturers that we work with are increasing their production, and we are increasing our inventory as well as bringing it in earlier in the season.
Omicron / COVID has caused some disruption early in 2022 and we will see how that impacts availability. As of January 11, 2022, Ningbo (China) is basically shutdown and this is a huge watersports manufacturing hub. The supply chain issue at the ports is real, and it is possible that this will continue and get worse, delaying some early season availability. For reference in the past two months, once the boat makes it to the port, it takes about 2 weeks to 1 month to get off the boat, and another 2 weeks to 1 month to make it to our warehouse. Generally this is due to sitting at the port in an area that is not accessible by trucks, but also due to a shortage of truckers/ chassis.
2. New models will be few and far between.
Besides our Airkayaks MakoDS Lightweight Inflatable Kayak, Kokopelli’s 2 Chamber and Advanced Elements PackRaft + we do not know of a new model heading into the market. Feel safe that you are buying the latest and greatest in inflatable kayaking tech with this year’s models.
3. Airkayaks AE1044XL & AE1044XLC will gain popularity and be the best selling model(s).
4. E-commerce will be the primary channel for consumers purchasing kayaks.
We are biased as Airkayaks.com is an online only storefront, but with NO TAX and FREE SHIPPING, its hard to justify picking something up local in this environment.
5. Lightweight, Easy to Use Models Win
Lighter weight models that are easiest to fold, with best in class bags and accessories will gain traction over legacy models. The Airkayaks MakoDS Lightweight Inflatable Kayak, AirVolution, and Aquaglide Chelan come to mind with best in class kits. (bags, seats, included accessories). Its all about getting out on the water, and these models are SUPER easy to get to, and from the lake to maximize your paddling experience.